Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Another late Top 5 Tuesday (I blame Memorial Day Weekend)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Now, some of my loyal few (even, perhaps, a family member!) may see the topic of this week's Top 5 list and opt to skip it. I have been mocked, at times, though most often tolerated, for my unabashed, life-long love for George Strait. For whatever reason, my dad, who actually has quite the diverse taste in music, has never been the biggest traditional country music fan. He appreciates old-timers like Waylon Jennings, but he is not much for the billboard leaders of today. Though he has made allowances for the recent influx of "Texas country", which is very different than typical Nashville fare. I, however, love country music, and adore no one more than George Strait. His songs were woven throughout my life, from a very early age. My earliest memory is probably of "Baby Blue"-ever the romantic, one of my BFF's Wendy and I used to discuss how the song was for us. Because we had baby blue eyes of course. I was probably nine or ten during these discussions, just so you know.

Then, as I grew older, I got to experience those angst-y first dances, where I would sit anxious and nervous as the music played, knowing full well that I didn't know how to two-step, but wishing desperately that someone would ask me to anyway. There were always a a few George Strait classics played; almost inevitably "The Cowboy Rides Away" would be the final dance. I should mention that these dances weren't at school, but took place in Fort Davis for 4th of July, or in Marfa for the Marfa Lights Festival. They were always on the street, which was cleared out and usually encircled with bales of hay or lawn chairs so that people could sit and enjoy the dancing. All the adults were great dancers-to me, they seemed like seasoned professionals, whirling and spinning.

I was in seventh grade when Pure Country came out-my BFF Julie and I were overwhelmed for excitement for the video to come out. Of course, there was no movie theater within 100 miles, and I am almost certain that neither of us made a big trip to El Paso to see it. I cannot COUNT how many times we listened to "I Cross My Heart", or giggled innocently at the suggestive nature of "Overnight Male" or got pumped up by the opening strains of "Heartland." And despite the cheese factor of the movie, you can bet that we watched it 100's of times, crying at all the romantic scenes each time.

Julie and I believed we were George's biggest fans. We proudly wore our concert t-shirts throughout junior high and high school, though neither of us had ever been to one. We eagerly devoured information on Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos (now Texas State), because that's where George went. Our theme song was "You Know Me Better Than That", which we joyously sang together every few days. As George is quite prolific, producing albums at a regular, predictable rate, Julie and I always purchased them together. We weren't exactly alone in our obsession, but not everyone shared our deep appreciation.

My freshman year of college, I dragged my friend Bailey with me to see George in concert in Clemson, SC. That was back when George went on tour with a huge crowd of people, calling it a festival, so it was really an all-day thing. We were positively exhausted by the time he finally came on, but all the fatigue faded away the minute he started playing. George isn't a big showman, and there weren't any fancy lights or smoke and mirrors. Just Jorge Derecho (yes, we gave him this lame nickname in high school when we learned a few Spanish words) and his guitar, wearing Wranglers, boots, and a crisply ironed Brushpopper shirt. He played all the favorites, all the new hits, and even a more obscure tune, which happens to be on my list today.

As my Francis mantra states, "I always know what I'm getting, and I'm always pleased." That is exactly why I love George so much. He has a formula that works, and he doesn't try to be anything that he's not. Of course, that predictability and un-spontaneous nature is exactly why not everyone loves him the way I do. It is comforting, though, one must admit, to have a few things that you can count on.

I came up with my George Strait-inspired list because of a special tonight on CBS: The ACM Artist of the Decade All-Star Concert, the artist in question being, of course, George Strait. Even if you don't love him, or if you loathe country music, you have to admire a guy who has managed to reap such tremendous success, even after 25 years.

5. Why Not Now, One Step at a Time. This album is one of my favorites, loaded with great songs. While this one wasn't a top 10 hit, I seem to remember it had some significance for me in the last few months of high school.

4. Amarillo by Morning, Strait from the Heart. I had to include a fond memory from all those dances! By the way, two-stepping really isn't that difficult, and no one should shy away from dancing due to a lack of a confidence! Lesson learned from George Strait!

3. Run, The Road Less Traveled. This song was tremendously popular, probably because it's a bit more mainstream. It's a real country ballad, and I admit to getting a little swept up every time I listen to it.

2. Lead On, Lead On. There is something so sweet and heartwrenching about this song. "She said I had a love once, but he just up and left me; I said I bet it broke your heart...I had a love once too, but I acted like a fool, oh what I'd give, to be back in her arms..." Well, I know you can't REALLY get the idea from those lyrics, but if you heard it, I'd bet you could understand why I love it so.

1. Nobody in His Right Mind Would've Left Her, #7. It's my all-time favorite. I can't exactly explain why, but I think it might just be its comforting familiarity.

Julie and I, circa 1998, with One Step at a Time.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Be still my heart!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

And so it begins. You can expect this kind of behavior from me until 11/20/09.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Meatballs just aren't glamourous.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I have continued to build up quite a list of recipes that I haven't written about. I always tell myself that I'm saving them for the proverbial rainy day, a day upon which I have no recipe to write about and thus must rely upon the reserve I've stored up.

This particular recipe is part of that store, but I've also waited for some time to include it because it's not exactly the most composed, fancy, or elaborate dish. It's just a good old-fashioned meatball sandwich. Which includes, as a key ingredient, Fritos. Yes, those crispy curls of salty corn goodness. The kind that I used to find at the concession stand at football games, doused in Wolf Brand chili and garnished with shredded cheddar (that would be a Frito pie, by the way). I'm not at all ashamed about this ingredient, however. I feel that the crushed chips lend an excellent texture and flavor to the meatballs and sauce. They truly do. And you should absolutely trust my opinion, because usually, I don't even like meatballs. Any sort of baked meat, actually-I loathe meatloaf. I do enjoy the meatball sub from Subway, but I think that might just be the fact that they've soaked into the tomato sauce for so long that I can barely taste the wretched "baked meat" flavor that I abhor.

Anyway, I came across this recipe in the No Recipe Zone section of my Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine. Silvana Nardone, an assistant editor always commands this feature, as well as a dessert spot, in the magazine, and I tend to enjoy her dishes. Despite the aforementioned dislike of meatballs, I decided to give the recipe a shot-the Fritos intrigued me, and the addition of black beans and pepper jack cheese were also major selling points.

The subs were DELICIOUS. By far better than any sandwich one could pick up from Subway or Quizno's. The chili sauce was hearty and spicy, the meatballs juicy and scrumptious. My SH and I ate them for several nights, and I can easily see doubling the recipe for the sauce in order to have plenty left over to freeze. I'm sure it would also taste good tossed with pasta or served over white rice. Give it a shot, and don't think twice about the Fritos.

Chili Meatball Subs, adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray, May 2009

1 pound ground beef

1 onion, one-half finely chopped, one-half thinly sliced

1 cup corn chips, such as Fritos, crushed

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon chili powder

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

One 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes

One 15-ounce can black beans

6 sandwich rolls, split halfway and toasted

2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese (about 8 ounces)

In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, chopped onion, 1/4 cup crushed corn chips, the egg, chili powder, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup water. Shape into 1-inch balls.
2. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and the remaining 3/4 cup crushed corn chips and bring to a boil. Add the meatballs to the sauce, cover and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Stir in the beans and cook just until heated through, about 5 minutes.
3. Preheat the broiler. Using a slotted spoon, spoon the chili meatballs and sauce into the toasted rolls, then top with the cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Top 5 Tuesday

Tuesday, May 19, 2009
from A Tale of Two Cities

I spent this evening over at a friend's house, eating steaming bowls of tortilla soup and then watching The Hours, in preparation for our class lecture on Mrs. Dalloway and its tragic author, Virginia Woolf. I've actually really been enjoying the book, and as I watched the unrecognizable Nicole Kidman-as-Virginia Woolf tell her husband that she had a "first line," I was struck with inspiration for this week's list. The first line of Mrs. Dalloway is distinctive and memorable, in its very ordinary-ness: "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself." In fact, that very sentence contains within it a crucial truth to the story, it epitomizes the issue at the heart of the eponymous Mrs. Dalloway.

I thought I might take a quick look through my bookshelf and choose a few first lines that I found to be particularly compelling. Keep in mind, this is no "Best First Lines Ever" list, and it's not really even a true top 5. It's just a little record of what it has been, in some of my favorite books, that made me realize, right off the bat, that these were something to be reckoned with.

5. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith.
Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York.

4. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

3. Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck.
Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.

2. Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D.H. Lawrence.
Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically.

1. A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way-in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Clearly, that last one rather trumps the rest. There's a reason he's my fave.

New Moon Rising

You have to admit, I've shown a remarkable amount of restraint in these past few months while New Moon has been filming. Nary an image of the shooting, clips from the ET specials, or press releases has appeared on my blog. Well, I can hold back no longer. The fabulous, official movie poster was released this morning, and I must share it, if for no other reason than to allow me to gaze upon it.

I'm pretty sure the movie is going to be awesome. Can't you tell?

I felt nauseous the first time I saw that last image-Edward's imminent departure is SO painful!


Friday, May 15, 2009

"It's going to take a long time, and then it's perfect."

Friday, May 15, 2009

And so ends the fifth season of The Office, a perfectly sweet conclusion to what has arguably been one of the best seasons. Say what you will about the episodes that weren't chock-full of laughs, the writers have made a concerted, successful effort to carefully craft and develop each character. Michael, as emotionally vulnerable and socially awkward as ever, found a true soulmate in Holly Flax, and despite being separated by distance and other relationships, he sweetly, eloquently stated in last night's finale that they will have a "long story." Angela got her just deserts when her infidelity was finally revealed, but it would seem that Dwight might consider un-shunning her by next season. Andy might just find love with the adorable new receptionist. Ryan is back as a temp, a position that he fully deserves, what with his corporate malfeasance and drug habit. Phyllis is just a little saucier, and is proving to be a clear voice of reason to counteract Michael's vengeful fits of hurt feelings, reminding him that he let them all down when he left to start the Michael Scott Paper Company.

And Jim and Pam...what WASN'T great about them this season? Rarely has such a popular television relationship managed to escape the tendency towards the over-dramatic that many other shows insist upon writing in, to "keep it interesting." I think that's because it's not an unusual relationship-it's just a good example of a real life one. The two characters are funny and clever, whether together or separate, and their chemistry has not waned just because they're happy. The concluding scene, the big reveal, could not have been handled better-witnessing the news from behind the window only made it more poignant, and John Krasinski was just superb as he stepped out to call Dwight back, barely containing his emotion.

Ah, the sixth season really can't get here fast enough!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

More fuel to the fire...

Thursday, May 14, 2009
Yeah, I'm pretty sure that the obsessive-compulsive disorder that I've developed in response to Kings of Leon won't be going away any time soon. I've just discovered that they will be performing at this year's MTV Movie Awards, an event that I eagerly anticipate, with guilty pleasure, every year. In my defense, past awards shows have been imbued with a considerable amount of comedic genius. It's quite entertaining to see the likes of Jack Black and Jimmy Fallon making fun of the year's big movie hits.

Anyway, I will most definitely be tuning in on May 31, if for no other reason than to revel in the Kings' performance.

Can you blame me?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Top 5 Wednesday

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

It’s always something of a struggle to find the necessary amount of inspiration for blogging when I’m away from home. Sometimes, there are more practical, tangible barriers to my writing, such as limited wireless access or lack of electrical outlets. Most often, though I just find it difficult to concentrate when I’m not in my normal writing space, my little breakfast nook in my sunshiny yellow kitchen.

I’m pleased to announce, however, that despite the tardiness of this week’s top 5 list, I’m quite happy with it. In honor of season finale week, I have compiled a group of my favorite, most memorable television finales. I am quite vocal about my unabashed, unashamed love of good television, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting this week’s final episodes of the season. I don’t even feel too badly about my late post, especially considering that all my faves will be airing tomorrow. I’m full of anticipation! Will Izzie die? Will Michael Scott reunite with Holly? Are the Beastie Boys really going to make an appearance on 30 Rock? And most importantly, what will REALLY occur between Booth and Bones? Perhaps one ore more of these episodes might crack this list for next year.

5. Grey’s Anatomy, Season 2. A short, 10-episode first season got viewers hooked on the drama at Seattle Grace, but it wasn’t until the conclusion of the second that it solidified its reputation as best new drama. So many moments of tragedy and greatness: Izzie waiting in the elevator with her prom dress, Derek’s captivated eyes as Meredith descends the stairs for the prom, Denny’s face pale with death, Alex prying Izzie’s fingers from Denny’s neck and carrying her away, Derek and Meredith’s steamy reunion, all set to the sweeping, overly romantic tones of “Chasing Cars.” Sadly, I don’t think it’s ever been better.

4. Friday Night Lights, Season 3. Yes, it’s a bit of an unconventional choice for a top 5 season finale, but the final moments of Season 3 were unforgettable. All loose ends were left in a state of ambiguity, with Tim unsure about his college football future, Matt undecided about whether to leave his grandmother, Julie wrenched by what she assumes to be an impending breakup, and Tyra eagerly looking towards her college days. There was a campy, ridiculous wedding* (see post title picture) sequence, yes, and loyal viewers agonized over Coach Taylor’s humble refusal to beg for his position at Dillon, but the closing scenes, with our beloved coach gazing across the ruined, run-down football field at East Dillon, replete with peeling paint on wooden stands and a field riddled with tufts of weeds which sprouted amongst patches of dirt, was powerful and compelling. Not surprisingly, the show that barely managed a third season renewal was rapidly renewed for 2 seasons.

3. Alias, Season 2. I wouldn’t put Alias very high on my list of favorite shows-my SH and I really enjoyed the first few seasons, but our interest waned when the plot lines got too ridiculous or complicated. The closing scenes of the second season finale, however, were both shocking and heartbreaking. After making the horrifying discovery that Francie wasn’t really Francie, and barely getting through a brutal fight, Syndey Bristow wakes up in a tiny, nondescript room in an unnamed Asian city, not knowing how or when she arrived. She immediately calls her secret agency number, and is eventually met by her love and partner, the smoldering Vaughn. As he stares with her with an inexpressible sadness, both Sydney and the viewers are confused-we KNOW that Syd and Vaughn have acknowledged their love to each other, albeit recently, so what in the world could be wrong? Then Sydney catches a glimpse of a gold band firmly attached to Vaughn’s wedding finger, and he tells her that she has been gone, missing, lost-for TWO YEARS! Gah! A collective gasp could be heard ‘round the country!

2. 24, Season 1. I hate to be lame and typical and refer to 24’s first season as “groundbreaking”, but it was! We found a new, incredible action hero in Jack Bauer, and his efforts to protect a soon-to-be beloved president made for great television. The hour-by-hour format was fresh and new, and each episode contained countless twists and turns. Of all the finales on my list, this one is the most shocking, for the colossal twist that the writers unleashed upon the newly addicted viewers. We’d spent a whole season enmeshed in the assassination attempt and Jack’s attempts to prevent it, largely aided by his colleague and former lover, Nina Myers. Finding out that she was the CTU mole was truly jawdropping, but hardly more so than the death of Teri Bauer. We had been lulled into a false sense of security by Jack’s discovery of Nina as the mole, but we never dreamed the cold-hearted villainess would murder Jack’s wife. I still get a sick feeling in my stomach thinking about that scene.

1. The Office, Season 2. Did anyone really doubt that “Casino Night” would not be my number one season finale? It’s the best cliffhanger on my list! After two seasons of watching what surely would be a great relationship develop between Jim and Pam, the viewers were rewarded with a declaration of love (on Jim’s part) and a first kiss. We had to wait through the summer to find out the consequences of that kiss-Pam decides to go through with her wedding to Roy and Jim moves to Stamford-and it was PAINFUL. All is well in Scranton, now, however! I hear that the "honor of our presence will be requested for a fall wedding."

Did I leave anything just GREAT out? What finales are you looking forward to the most?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Roasted Salmon with Lemon-Herb Matzo Crust and Quinoa with Mixed Herbs

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Yes, that is quite the long post title, but as this dinner most certainly deserves a post, I felt I would be remiss in not including it all. In fact, the quinoa is good enough to post about on its very own!

For some strange reason, I skipped right over the article in my April issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray that included this heavenly combination. I came across the salmon when browsing Noble Pig, one of many millions of food blogs that make my humble little snippets of writing seem hugely insignificant. Granted, I have become prone to writing about anything that strikes my fancy, not just food and books, but I can still admit to feeling slightly demoralized when I witness such fabulous, beautiful blogs as this, or this.

Before I get too morose or develop an even greater case of blog-envy, I shall write about this most heavenly dinner, which I made almost a MONTH ago, and am only writing about now. It was quite simple, the most tedious step consisted of my lugging the food processor off the shelf so that I could whirl the matzo into crumbs. Roasting anything, actually is very simple, and a quick, surefire, low-maintenance way to create loads of flavor. Once I had ground the matzo, I made quick work of chopping the herbs and finishing the crumb topping, which I generously spread over a set of delicately sliced pink fillets. As you know, I adore anything with a crust, so my mouth was practically already watering in anticipation as I slid the salmon into the stove.

The end result was wonderful-perfectly roasted salmon wrapped in a buttery, herb-flecked cloak of crumbs, a hint of lemon and spicy mustard adding to the most appealing flavor...hmmm. I deftly (for me, I'm usually quite uncoordinated) lifted the fillets, depositing them on my beautiful Fiestaware plates next to a large pile of fluffy quinoa, and we "tucked in", as Jamie Oliver would say.

While I love a good grain pretty much any way, any time, I was surprisingly shocked by how thoroughly I enjoyed the quinoa. I could barely restrain myself from shoveling it into my mouth. I think a big part of it was making ample use of the herbs that I had at home. There have been times when I've opted to skip the fresh herb called for in a recipe, simply because I just didn't have the time, money, or energy to buy three bunches of flat-leaf parsley or 2 cups worth of basil. There's no getting around it, they make an immense difference, adding so much depth to a dish, that it's nothing short of a culinary tragedy to leave them out. Worth the money, those herbs! I should also mention that right on the top of my list of favorite ingredients, which contains such splendid things as Gruyere cheese, asparagus, and the aforementioned fresh basil, is pine nuts. I LOVE THEM. I suppose you could say I was prejudiced in favor of this dish before I even tasted a forkful.

Roasted Salmon with Lemon-Herb Matzo Crust, adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray, April 2009

Eight 1-inch-thick center-cut salmon fillets (6 ounces each), skinned (I halved the recipe for my husband and I)
Salt and pepper
2 sheets matzo, finely ground
3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
Grated peel of 1 lemon, plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 425. On a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet, place the salmon skinned side down; season with salt and pepper.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the matzo, parsley, thyme, lemon peel, lemon juice, and mustard; season with salt and pepper. Stir in the olive oil and butter.
3. Cover the top of each salmon fillet completely with the matzo mixture, pressing to adhere. Roast until the salmon is just cooked through but still translucent in the center, about 10 minutes.

Quinoa with Herbs and Mixed Olives (I will include the actual recipe here, though as olives are at the top of my "foods that I don't love list", I opted to eliminate them-the quinoa was still delicious!)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups quinoa, well rinsed
1/2 cup pitted and thinly sliced black and green olives
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1/3 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped

1. In a large saucepan or deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until oftened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
2. Stir in 2 1/4 cups water, season with salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat, cover and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add the olives, pine nuts, basil, cilantro and parsley and toss with a fork to combine; season with salt.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Top 5 Tuesday

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Well, this looks to be an interesting installment of Top 5 Tuesday. I have long since wished to write a music-based list-if you’ll recall, my very first Top 5 was devoted to my musical obsession inclination for Coldplay. I was puttering away in my yard today, admiring the rainbow made by the sparkling shower of water that I generously bestowed upon a dry patch under the chestnut tree, all the while contemplating my list for the week, when I quickly realized that I knew immediately what I wanted to write about. At that very moment, I was listening to a playlist that I cleverly gave the original title “Jessica Four”-yes, that would be the fourth playlist that I have created to pass along to my best friend, Pretty Cheap Dress. Now, you should know that she is absolutely NO SLOUCH when it comes to music; in fact, she is a veritable oracle, with a remarkable and uncanny ability to discern the promise and quality of new and old artists. It’s just one of her many talents, actually.

Over the years, Pretty Cheap Dress has taught me a lot. When I first met her, I was almost four years her senior, but you would never have known it. She exuded wisdom and wit, and she wasn’t like anyone I had ever met. Almost ten years later, that’s still true. We have endured trials and tribulations of our separate lives together, laughed and cried at things both ridiculous and real, and managed to remain close in spite of what feels like (and most of the time, actually IS) thousands of miles between us. She is truly my kindred spirit.

Music has always been a vital part of Pretty Cheap Dress’s life, and she most willingly and exuberantly proclaims that to anyone that will listen. When I met her, I had a typical Top 40 attitude towards music-it’s not that I didn’t love it, but I usually listened to the same thing, and easily got swept up in romantic ballads or catchy summer tunes. Of course, there is NOTHING wrong with that, and I still confess to loving sweet songs and summer anthems. It was just revolutionary to thing about the song I listened to in a different way, or to embrace the notion of sifting through a pile of albums in search of something great. This kind of behavior is what Pretty Cheap Dress admonished.

I met all sorts of artists for the first time through Pretty Cheap Dress. On our road trip to New York, she played Sublime, who believe it or not, I had never heard before. I still remember the sun beating down on us as we cruised through Georgia, Pretty Cheap Dress belting out “…on lock down like a penetentiarrrryyyyy…” Of course, I loved it. Just a few months before that, when I visited both Pretty Cheap Dress and my beloved sister at Texas Tech, a certain unknown guy (he was TOTALLY unknown at the time) named Jack Johnson was singing “Flake” in her stereo on repeat. She dragged me up to sing karaoke with her once, and to my shock and terror, instead of selecting a comfortable, familiar favorite, like “I Will Survive”, she gave a fabulous, theatrical performance of “Short Skirt/Long Jacket”, by Cake. “What IS this???” I thought to myself at the time, but now, every time I hear that song on my Ipod, I get totally into it.

I found out about the new artists gracing the Grey’s Anatomy soundtracks because of Pretty Cheap Dress, who called and insisted that I immediately purchase Grey’s Anatomy Soundtrack: Volume One, because there was this “great” song on it by a little band called Go Set Go. My love for Sheryl Crow branched out beyond “If It Makes You Happy” to include “The Difficult Kind” and “My Favorite Mistake.” When I would jump into Bessie, Pretty Cheap Dress’s second car (after the untimely death of Betsy, her first car), I would find it was just as likely that we might jam out to Missy Elliott as it was that we might enjoy a few Radiohead tunes. We might breathlessly sing, word for word “You Can’t Hurry Love” or turn up Pat Green as loud as he’d go. Pretty Cheap Dress always employs a makeshift microphone, and she likes to toss in choreography, pretending to do tae bo when we listened to “Drops of Jupiter” or demonstrating the length of the aforementioned “loooooooong jacket.

It’s because of Pretty Cheap Dress that I ever even discovered a Coldplay song beyond “Yellow”, or that I paid closer attention to they lyrics of “In Your Eyes.” She is why my favorite Feist song is “I Feel it All”, not “1-2-3-4.” I can talk with her about the likes of Taylor Swift and The Decemberists, and she’ll happily share what she loves about both. She appreciates my less-than-stellar playlists, which can only aspire to the greatness of her own, and we have made a habit of using music lyrics as subject lines for our e-mails. I love music more, and have experienced so much more from its benefits, because of her.

Thus, this week’s list will be a concise little gathering of five artists (and one accompanying song) that I am now acquainted with and love, because of the influence of Pretty Cheap Dress. Perhaps you’ll check one of them out, or maybe you’ve heard it all before. Either way, I think it does us all a bit of good to dwell on music for a while.

5. Jenny Lewis, "Rise Up with Fists." For our second Coldplay concert at Madison Square Garden, circa 2005, a great little band called Rilo Kiley was the opening act. What I remember the most about them, besides the immensely appealing tune “Portions for Foxes”, which would later feature prominently in the pilot of Grey’s Anatomy, was the feisty lead singer, wearing a bright red vintage dress and throwing herself into the music with wild abandon. That was my first introduction to Jenny Lewis, and she made a strong impression. “Rise Up with Fists” comes from her solo debut, a soulful, quirky album.

4. MGMT, "Time to Pretend." While I don’t necessarily endorse the notions set forth in the lyrics of the song, I was totally enraptured the first time I heard it. I'm now inclined to put it on repeat for hours.

3. My Morning Jacket, "Knot Comes Loose." The first time I heard this album (“Z”), I couldn’t believe that the same band recorded every song. They’re all unique, with a different sound, almost as if you can’t really pin down the genre. This particular song is my favorite, so heartbreaking and sweet at the same time.

2. Kings of Leon, "Revelry." Hmmmm, Kings of Leon. Love these guys. I feel that the best way to describe them is “sensual southern rock.” I think they might be my new addiction.

1. Jack Johnson, "Cocoon." It’s been a long time since we cruised the highways in Lubbock, rich, chocolate brown plains on either side, becoming quickly enamored with Jack’s quiet soul. He’s now a tremendous success, selling millions of records, going on sold-out tours, and headlining popular music festivals. While I love all his albums, and in fact, take comfort in their familiarity and common themes, I think I’m most attached to “On and On”, the second album. During my first summer teaching in New York, I listened to it regularly on the interminable, exhausting daily commute between Connecticut and the Bronx, and on many, MANY hot summer evenings, my SH and I could hear the album streaming through an open window of the apartment building across the street. We’d relax at the dinner table, and I would scoot my chair over close to his every time “Cocoon” finally came on. “I don’t want to be your regret, I’d rather be your cocoon.” Swoon. That Jack Johnson can be a romantic-he hasn’t spent all his time strumming his guitar on a beach by a roaring bonfire. Though I do like to think of him that way…

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*You should also take a moment to actually visit Pretty Cheap Dress. There's no excuse! I've included so many links I'm practically dizzy from highlighting them!

**UPDATE: This very day, look at what arrived in the mail!

Straight from Pretty Cheap Dress herself.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

I'm good at eating too!

Saturday, May 2, 2009
I'm sorry!!! I have been sprinkling my blog with video clips left and right! There is no originality in a video, at least one that I did not make! Of this, I am completely and utterly aware, but I cannot help but include the trailer for Julie & Julia, which I have been waiting for, FOREVER, especially once I heard that the movie would be starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams.

I cannot pretend that Julia Child has been much of an influence on me, but I certainly respect her legacy, and Julie Powell is one of the food blogging pioneers, which I can't help but admire.

For the record, I already LOVE the scene with Julie lying on the kitchen floor and crying. I'm sure any home cook who has attempted something adventurous can readily identify.

Friday, May 1, 2009

"Too far, Meredith, too far!"

Friday, May 1, 2009
I'm crying. Literally. GIANT tears of laughter and fits of hysterical giggles are threatening to overcome me.

P.S. I do not endorse such attire and/or nudity in a professional work environment.